Hillsong founder Brian Houston has slammed the NSW government’s coronavirus rules, claiming they are inconsistent and discriminate against church gatherings.
The high-profile leader of the Hillsong empire shared his views via social media on Monday, saying numbers attending church services were strictly limited, while other coronavirus restrictions are being relaxed.
The number of people allowed to worship in churches in NSW is capped at 100, regardless of the size of the building.
“We have a building with space for 4000 people yet can only have 100 in there,” he tweeted.
Pre-pandemic, the Hillsong empire founded by Mr Houston and his wife, Bobbie, could pull 100,000 people around the world into mega-churches each weekend to sing, dance and speak in tongues.
In 2018 in Australia alone, the church raked in $80 million in tax-free revenue.
The pastor told 2GB radio on Wednesday that his congregation wanted consistency, as the NSW government announced this week that 300 guests would be allowed at weddings from December.
“[At] the [AFL] grand final this week, 40,000 to 45,000 people (will be) hugging, shouting, spitting, high-fiving – it’s just the inconsistency of it,” Mr Houston said.
“Churches seem to be left behind.”
Mr Houston said he wasn’t asking for permission to “pack out” churches but argued places of worship could abide by COVID-safe plans, just as other venues could.
“Community and connection is so much of what churches provide, and I think there’s a lot of people out there desperate for that sense of community and connection again after a long time of isolation,” he said.
NSW deputy chief health officer Jeremy McAnulty told Nine that relaxing virus rules was a decision for the government.
NSW had 10 more infections on Wednesday. They included two in the community, both linked to the outbreak at the Great Beginnings childcare centre at Oran Park in south-western Sydney. There are now 22 cases linked with the Oran Park community cluster.
The others were in returned travellers in hotel quarantine.